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Discussion Starter #1
I know that dovetails are the strongest joint for drawer construction. But I didn't want to spend $$ on a jig just now. What's the next best thing? I have a table saw and router. I'm using 1/2 inch Baltic birch plywood. 7"H,38"W,21"D. False front. Full extension side mount drawer slides. The drawers will be used for DVD storage on a built-in entertainment cabinet - not very heavy contents.

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The Young Blood
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Using dovetails doesn't mean you need to buy a fancy jig, but if you are amateur like me, cutting them by hand isn't the best idea. I would use a Lock miter bit in the router, or just use some rabbets on these drawers.
 

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Old School
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The easiest drawer construction would be to rabbet the sides to accept the front and back. All the machining can be done on the table saw with a single blade. Cut the length of the rabbet first on the sides, i.e., ½" x ¼" deep. If you cut the sides standing up, set up a tall fence support. If not, several passes can be made with just your miter gauge and the side held flat to the table. The sides and front are grooved to accept the bottom.

The back is cut short to allow the bottom to be slid in. A well fitted bottom will help square the drawer. The bottom can be attached to the underside of the back with fasteners, or screws.

The front and back can be brad nailed (and glued) to the sides . Use an angle to the front and back to shoot the fastener into the sides. That way no fastener will show when assembled.








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I had a recent project that used the same material. I used a locked rabbet joint. Basically a 1/4 x 1/4 rabbet with a dado 1/4" in on the mating piece. Here is an example http://www.woodmagazine.com/woodworking-tips/techniques/joinery/lock-rabbet-drawer-joints/. I found it created flawless 90 deg corners with out much work. Joint can get a little tight when glue is applied so make it not too tight during dry fit. I brad nailed them during dry up.
 

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Old School
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I had a recent project that used the same material. I used a locked rabbet joint. Basically a 1/4 x 1/4 rabbet with a dado 1/4" in on the mating piece. Here is an example http://www.woodmagazine.com/woodworking-tips/techniques/joinery/lock-rabbet-drawer-joints/. I found it created flawless 90 deg corners with out much work. Joint can get a little tight when glue is applied so make it not too tight during dry fit. I brad nailed them during dry up.

That is a strong joint. One drawback for a plywood drawer box is that the plywood edge shows from the side.
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SInce you're using a false front, I'd make both front and back like the "back of drawer joint" in the photo.
 

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I agree with sawdustfactory. I bought those bits because they looked good and was on sale but haven't use them yet.

I usually use cabinetman's method but I'm going to try my new bits next time.
 

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Another non-dovetail joint that works well in plywood and even looks good is a miter strengthened with splines. This works well, especially if the drawer will not be getting heavy use. Miter all four corners then glue the drawer box together. Don’t forget to cut the groove for the bottom first. You can glue the bottom in when you assemble the drawer, or you can cut the back short and slide the back in later. Then after the glue is dry, you cut and place three or four splines parallel to the top and bottom across each joint. An accepted technical term is a ‘mock finger joint’. The miters hide the edges of the plywood, the splines look a bit like finger joints, and they are plenty strong for the application you describe. I think the various joints described above work well too, but this gives you another option.

Additionally you can glue the miters together and cut the groove with a dovetail bit on the router, then use a dovetail shaped spline. This will look a bit like a dovetail and is often called a ‘mock dovetail joint’. Using a contrasting wood will emphasize the detail .
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll try the locking rabbit to attach the drawer fronts on this project. Instead of a false front, I will use solid 3/4" Maple, or frame and panel. Is there a limit to the size for a solid drawer front?How large would you go before you are concerned about warping?

Two drawers will be 7" high and one will be 9" high. All three are 37" wide.
 

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Who said dovetails were the strongest?

Gatorpharm,

Dovetail joinery is certainly a recognizable indication of quality, especially well executed hand cut DTs. It is not necessarily the strongest joint.

I've done my own Very unscientific tests and have concluded that a simple plough or dado in the solid wood drawer front glued and toe stapled through the drawer side.

For my experiment I built two drawer both using 3/4" red oak for the drawer fronts and 1/2" Baltic birch plywood for the sides. One drawer had half blind DT using a router jig, the other the simple dado with staples. I then used a 22 oz, framing hammer to see how difficult it would be to knock them apart. I took only one good hammer blow to knock the front off the Dovetailed drawer. It took six blows on the stapled drawer and the the drawer front split in two but didn't quite separate from the drawer sides. 1 - 1/4" narrow crown staples have a lot of holding power in solid hardwood.

One of my pet peeves is to see a nice dovetailed drawer box with the drawer front attached to it using just a couple screws through the front of the drawer box.

That being said, I would not use a stapled drawer front on a fine piece of furniture. I just doesn't feel like fine woodworking to use the staples. Plus , you just can't beat the beauty of a nice , hand cut D

Bret
 

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I saw a dovetail jig for the tablesaw being demonstrated. Sorry i don't have a link but they are out there if you really wanted to go in that direction.
 

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I saw a dovetail jig for the tablesaw being demonstrated. Sorry i don't have a link but they are out there if you really wanted to go in that direction.
Snook,

It may have been my thread you saw regarding the dovetail jig for the table saw. It actually involves two sleds. One with alternating angles passing over a dado and the other which passes the drawer side over an angled saws blade. It's complicated and requires careful precision and concentration but can give good results. It only works on through DTs not half blinds.

The third photo shows a plywood drawerbox made with this setup.

Bret
 

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